Sunday, 17 June 2012

Open Letter to Nigel Farndale

On Wednesday 12th June the Telegraph published this article by journalist Nigel Fletcher entitled 'Why do some people want drugs to be legal?' 

The piece noted that the public debate advocating drug law reforms had escalated over the last twelve months, and was welcomed by many for bringing the issue to national attention at a time when issues such as the Eurozone crisis or Jubilee dominated headlines. However, the board felt there was an obligation to write to the Telegraph to knock back some of the spurious anti-reform arguments it put forward - the letter wasn't published on the paper's letters' page, but is shared here:

Dear Sirs, 

We write as some of the people who want drugs to be 'legal' given that the illegality of using certain drugs neither prevents their use, nor protects wider society. 

While we welcome an article looking at the 'sea-change' taking place in the minds of policy makers about reform, it is still important to refute the straw men Mr Fletcher seems tiringly obliged to put forward.

Cannabis available today is only about 2 and a half times stronger that that sold 40 years ago, as reported by the current Chair of the the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs in 2008 in a Home Office Technical Committee report. Dr Les Iverson then compated the difference in strength as 'that between beer and wine'; we believe most people are capable of recognising that ordering a pint of Merlot is a bad idea and acting accordingly. 

We find bizzare that prohibition should be defended on the basis addicts cannot make better choices for themselves, when the bald facts are the majority of recreational drugs users are not addicts, and that a black market for drugs does nothing to protect those made vulnerable by addiction. It is even more bizzare to mention the success of decriminalisation in Portugal in the same article that later suggests drug use would go up if drug use is decriminalised. 

Anne Widdecombe needs to look at research of use versus harsher penalties elsewhere in the world - there is no compelling evidence that this effectively reduces use. Her conclusions seem to stem from her concerns about what she feels are appropriate behaviour - which we feel she has a right to express but not irrationally enshrine in law to the cost of the taxpayer and our already creaking legal and penal systems. 

Finally, the quotes from Theodore Dalrymple reveal the lack of research on the part of the writer, as Dalrymple's central conclusion is that Opiates are relatively difficult to become addicted too, fatally undermining the article's conclusion that moderate heroin use cannot exist. Mr Fletcher needs to speak with fellow journalist Ben Goldacre who has written substantially and convincingly about both the increase in opiate addicted populations as a direct consequence of making Heroin a Class A drug, and how in post-WW1 era opiate addictions were successfully managed as a health problem between doctor and patient. 

In conclusion, we speak on behalf of young people whose faith in government and the press to legislate for their safety or speak truthfully about these issues is undermined every time yet another piece like this hits the news-stands.

The Executive Board
Students for Sensible Drugs Policy UK

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